CERRIE gags minority

Committee Examining Radiation Risk of Internal Emitters
(CERRIE)
gags dissenting members

Committee accused of bias and suppression of scientific debate

A Minority Report of the Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters (CERRIE) was launched at the House of Commons on 8th September 2004. Ex-Environment Minister Michael Meacher MP presented the report with Committee Members Chris Busby and Richard Bramhall and Paul Dorfman, a member of the committee’s secretariat. The Minority Report contains the opinions, evidence and references which have been excluded from the Main Report which is due to be published in October.

CERRIE was set up by Michael Meacher in 2001 after representations from the Low Level Radiation Campaign (LLRC) suggested that radiation risk models used by Government were flawed, leading to serious underestimation of the hazards of radioactivity in the environment. The Committee’s remit was to identify areas where consensus could not be reached and to explain the areas of disagreement, with suggestions for research to resolve the problems. It comprises representatives of LLRC, Green Audit, BNFL and Greenpeace (one each), three from the National Radiological Protection Board, three academics and a scientist nominated by Friends of the Earth. The Chairman is Professor Dudley Goodhead, recently retired as Director of the Radiation and Genome Stability Unit of the Medical Research Council, Harwell. (see www.cerrie .org) The latest version of the Main Report available to LLRC is the draft dated 23rd July 2004, which was adopted by a majority vote at the last meeting 24th June. It excludes a Dissenting Statement written by the LLRC and Green Audit representatives, reversing a written undertaking made by the Chairman in October 2002 that minority reports would be allowed. Two Committee meetings in March and May 2004 had decided to include the Dissenting Statement but the final meeting in June voted to disallow it after the Chairman asked departmental lawyers for their opinion. In papers provided as the last item of business at the last meeting on 24th June 2004 the lawyers advised that Members might be held liable for any libels or “negligent misstatements” it might contain (see footnote for details of the vote).
Drafts of LLRC’s and Green Audit’s dissenting statement had previously been criticised by the Chairman for “offensive material” and “potential libels” but despite repeated requests from LLRC no specific points had been identified.

The Minority Report provides compelling evidence from radiation biology and epidemiology that current models of hazard from low levels of radioactivity inside the human body underestimate risks by between 100 and 1000 times. COMARE has concluded that doses to the inhabitants of Seascale, near Sellafield would have been 300 times too small to cause the persistent excess leukaemia in young people who live there, but LLRC points to numbers of other disease anomalies which suggest that the risk estimates are in error by a factor of just that scale.

Michael Meacher said that it was outrageously unscientific to deny evidence on the basis that it is not predicted by theory. He said that it was inconceivable that the sharp increase in infant leukaemia in several countries after Chernobyl was not caused by the radiation. In a Foreword to the Minority Report he says:

I am deeply disappointed that it has proved necessary to publish this minority report. Science can be only trusted if it is pursued with the most rigorous procedures that guarantee freedom from bias. For this reason I deliberately set up the committee on a balanced basis with all opposing views fully represented - the first such science committee that I am aware of.
(This link takes you to the full text of Mr. Meacher’s Foreword.)

The Minority Report contains the letter in which Marion Hill, a widely respected expert in the field of radiation protection standards, resigned from the CERRIE secretariat in February 2003. She alleged that the Chairman and Dr. Ian Fairlie, another member of the Secretariat, were excluding her with serious consequences for bias in the work of the Committee.
A Statement in the Minority Report by Dr. Paul Dorman, who is still a member of the Secretariat, expresses reservations about his exclusion from the final reporting process, about whether the Committee has fulfilled its remit and about the impact of legal threats on Members’ preparedness to accommodate scientific dissent.

In a further open letter to her MP Ms. Hill outlines a number of shortcomings in the way Government obtains advice:-

Another effect of the close relationship [i.e. between NRPB and ICRP] is that, because of its NRPB secretariat, COMARE may be over-influenced by ICRP views. It is certainly noticeable that, whilst COMARE frequently challenges and criticises the nuclear industry, the committee does not seem to have questioned seriously ICRP’s analyses and models. Indeed one reason why CERRIE was set up was that COMARE had failed to do this. A related problem is that government and regulatory agencies are not necessarily making use of the best available UK expertise when obtaining advice about radiation risks. NRPB and COMARE are, in effect, closed to people who do not broadly support mainstream, ICRP, views. The dissenters and independents on CERRIE are in the minority and are severely disadvantaged by lack of resources. The result is that the government does not and will not receive scientific advice of the depth and breadth of that available.
Ms. Hill proposes a new structure to replace COMARE (Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment). A similar proposal has been made by Michael Meacher in an Early Day Motion tabled shortly before the House went into recess (see this link to EDM 1548.

Committee Member Richard Bramhall of LLRC observes that the field of radiation protection is characterised by a collision of beliefs:

When Mr. Meacher appointed his Committee members he recognised that scientists are deeply divided. After three years’ work we have reached agreement in some areas but it is now clear that there are not two but four camps: the establishment represented by ICRP and NRPB, whose view is that there are small risks even at the lowest doses; a number of people who think that small doses are beneficial; and a substantial body of people who say it is unscientific to discount evidence of deleterious effects from chronic low dose internal contamination – from Chernobyl, for instance - on the basis of studies of acute high dose external irradiation from exploding bombs. The fourth camp comprises those green activists who hesitate to address the evidence and the scientific shortcomings of ICRP, preferring to take refuge in the large uncertainties which surround the estimation of risk. I cannot say why they do this – it is, in the first instance, a question for the Greenpeace and FoE representatives on CERRIE, Peter Roche and Dr. Day. In particular they should be challenged to say why they seem willing to sign up to CERRIE’s nonsensical account of the post-Chernobyl infant leukaemia. If the bench mark is now a 40% increase at a dose of 10,000 microsieverts how is a 48% increase at 100 microsieverts consistent with it? This is what the main report says, and since Roche and Day stabbed us in the back at the last minute the countervailing view has been excluded, along with many others. In this respect the final report will not fulfil the committee’s remit

LLRC is not alone in criticising ICRP’s models. Two Russian Academicians who attended CERRIE’s three-day workshop in Oxford in July 2003 said that there were thousands of studies in Russian which were relevant to the Committee’s work and that it would be advisable to translate at least the abstracts. This issue has been ignored by the Committee but LLRC has given some resources to synopsising those Russian studies which are available in English and these synopses are incorporated in the Minority Report. They report a wide range of health effects from the Chernobyl accident and the authors, who include personnel from government ministries, clinics, research institutes and universities, frequently criticise ICRP’s modelling and bodies such as WHO, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Commission for denying the obvious association of radioactive pollution from the accident and the observed disease. The Minority Report also contains a brief account of an international conference on Chernobyl effects in Kiev in 2001 at which Swiss TV reporters filmed the progress of a cover-up of resolutions passed by the conference.

Dr. Chris Busby said that the motive behind the suppression of material which had occupied much of the three year CERRIE process was obviously that if it were published in an official report it would bring a storm of litigation down on the heads of the government and destroy any prospect of a new generation of nuclear power.

Copies of the Minority Report can be purchased from LLRC. The cover price is £25 (30 US dollars, 30 euro) but campaigners and students can ask for concessionary copies. Email us on bramhall@llrc.org

The vote taken at the end of the meeting 24th June 2004 was ostensibly to exclude the Dissenting Statement because it did not adequately identify the grounds of dissent from the Main Report. This topic was raised at the last moment and discussion was not allowed. It was proposed by Dr. Philip Day, the Friends of the Earth nominee, Peter Roche (Greenpeace), Professor Jack Simmons (academic) and Professor Eric Wright (academic).
The vote was 5 in favour (the 4 proposers plus Dr Richard Wakeford of BNFL) 2 against (Richard Bramhall, LLRC and Dr Chris Busby, Green Audit) 2 abstentions (Dr Colin Muirhead and Dr John Harrison, NRPB). 2 Members were absent (Professor Sarah Darby, academic, and Dr Roger Cox, NRPB). The Chairman did not vote. Sosiumi Press has now published a Minority Report. This is available at £UK25 (30 US dollars, 30 Euro). Email to:
SiteManager@llrc.org to order. Students and campaigners can apply for copies at a concessionary price. Please email and tell us who you are and how much you can pay.


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